How to Solder Jewelry: 4 Soldering and Pickling Questions Answered by Lexi Erickson

The solder balls up. The solder moves from one join. Have you encountered these issues when soldering jewelry? Here are four common soldering questions answered, excerpted from Lexi Erickson’s “Frequently Asked Questions” in the How to Solder Jewelry special issue.

learn to make a pierced pendant with Tom and Kay Benham

pierced pendant in progress by Tom and Kay Benham

Why Does My Solder Ball Up?

The solder balls up and doesn’t flow. How can I get it to flow? If you pay close attention to the solder before it flows, you will see that sometimes it does ball up. This can mean that the flow temperature, which is higher than the melting point, has not been reached yet. Usually, if you keep the flame on the soldering area, the solder will flow, but remember to keep the entire piece warm at the same time. If you are using too small a torch head, you are just “barbecuing” and will need more heat from a larger head. Change to the next larger size head.

Balling up can also mean that the solder was dirty, so if it doesn’t flow pretty soon after balling, it will just be getting dirtier. Try quenching, pickling, and resoldering.

learn to make the Yin Yang pendant by Jeff Fulkerson

Yin Yang Pendant by Jeff Fulkerson

Why Did My Solder Move from the Join?

The solder moved to one side or the other of the join. What’s happening? The hardest rule for me to learn was that both sides of the join must reach the same temperature at the same time. If one side is hotter than the other, the solder moves to the hottest side. Solder flows in the direction of the heat. (Have I ever mentioned that before?) Direct the flame evenly to both sides of the join, not directly on the join. This is very noticeable on bezels or butt joints, so extreme care must be taken with these.

Make sure the join is a good fit. Solder won’t fill gaps, you know!

Also, having too much solder on one side of a bezel join can be unsightly and must be sanded or filed off, which can affect the beauty of the join.

learn to make Beaded Chain by Laurel Nathanson

Beaded Chain by Laurel Nathanson

Can You Put Silver and Copper in Pickle?

Can I put silver and copper in the same pickle? Absolutely. You may put silver, copper, and all of copper’s alloys, such as brass and “bronze,” in the same pickle. (The “bronze” used in most jewelry today is a brass.) You can use the same pickle for gold, too, for those of you who can still afford it, though you need a special pickle for nickel, which we call “Nickel Pickle.” It’s usually available from your local supply store, and is also available from Rio Grande.

learn to create an otherworldly ring with Roger Halas

metalsmithing ring in progress by Roger Halas

When Do I Need to Change the Pickle?

How often do you change your pickle? When I can’t see my piece in the bottom of the crock pot. —Lexi

Want more expert soldering tips and advice, technique how-tos and project tutorials? Order How to Solder Jewelry and get to work improving your soldering skills before bedtime!

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